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D39 Board of Ed meeting increases taxes at Dec 18 meeting

Thank you for the fantastic turnout by New Trier Neighbors at last night’s D39 Board of Education Meeting. More than 40 of us were there standing up for common sense – and civility.

The final vote was 6 to 1 in favor of extending the tax levy by more than $2 million dollars.

The Good:

Virtually every board member expressed appreciation to the community for compelling a hard look at the levy process which otherwise, they said, would not have happened. There was vigorous discussion on raising the levy within the community which all agreed was new and welcome.

And there was a dissenting vote on the board on the levy for the first time that we can find since the 1990s. Courage prize here goes to Tracy Kearney.

Through the education efforts of New Trier Neighbors and with your support, our neighbors are now better informed than ever about this important local issue, and the levy process in general, and will be better positioned to engage in future efforts to encourage better schools.

From this experience, we have met some 350 NEW New Trier Neighbors just within Wilmette, and received over 500 signatures of Wilmette residents on our point-by-point petition giving common sense reasons for opposing the levy this year.  Every point on the petition included cites to original sources so that our readers could get educated and make their own intelligent decisions.  And so many petition signers offered great comments from Wilmette residents too!

View the petition here.

The Board admitted last night that the D39 school budget has not been comprehensively reviewed in five years. Five years!! It will be reviewed comprehensively in the year ahead.  Great result.  

Many board members at the final vote also admitted that some on the board had not really understood the levy process.  They do now.  A bit surprising, but still a good outcome that the board recognizes that it has a responsibility to independently determine whether an annual levy is needed.  


The Bad:

A compromise measure put forth by Tracy Kearney – asking the board to approve a levy of 2.8 percent, which is what all revenue projections going forward are based on – was rejected. Despite hearing from 500 Wilmette residents, even after reviewing point by point common sense reasons for opposing or lowering the levy this year, not to mention the  potentially disruptive impact from federal tax reform that awaits us, it is disappointing that the Board couldn’t ask for one fewer dollar from local residents.


The Ugly:

Some there spoke earnestly and calmly in favor of the levy, which is their right. Others who spoke in support of the levy used their comment time to spread outright lies and impugn motives, which was unfortunate but a pattern easily recognized. ( Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”)

You’ll be able to tell who’s who from watching the video of the meeting.  One gentleman in particular insisted on blaming NTN for publishing names and addresses of tax increase supporters supporters who appealed their property taxes.  NTN communicated only the total number of the school tax increase supporters who appealed their taxes and we would do that again.  A news outlet decided to go deeper and list names and addresses, which are all publicly available through the property tax database available to anyone.  You can access that article on our website.  Our own view is that  appealing property taxes is nothing to be ashamed of, in fact – we encourage it. View the December 18 Board of Education Meeting here.


Another unfortunate incident happened Sunday afternoon when volunteers gathering signatures and sharing information for the NTN petition were harassed by people who appeared to support the levy.  The volunteers were harassed to the point that they had to leave the area (Plaza del Lago), even though they had permission to be there. Standard intimidation tactics – nothing new – but nonetheless disappointing that people in our community would prefer to name call rather than debate the merits of issues, or compete in the marketplace of ideas.


Thank you

The vote didn’t turn out how we wanted, but an unprecedented amount of awareness was raised regarding the school levy which is the largest portion of your tax bill.  We also have  involved hundreds of new people –  500 Wilmette residents signed our detailed petition during the community debate.  The D39 board has more representative input from the community it is taxing.  And the district is now looking at its budget – particularly what it is spending – comprehensively for the first time in FIVE years.  


Thanks to all who supported this effort to bring awareness to the unneeded school levy through your time, energy and resources. We are certain the impact of your involvement is widespread, and we will see dividends in lots of positive ways in the months and years to come.


If you would like to be added to our mailing list, contact New Trier Neighbors.  If you’d like to donate, you can do so here.


We promise to always respect your trust – and your privacy.


Enjoy your holidays with friends and family and we wish you a Happy New Year.